Little announces new K-12 education task force

Gov. Brad Little, center, announces his new K-12 task force surrounded by co-chairs Debbie Critchfield and Bill Gilbert. Photo by Sami Edge/IdahoEdNews.

Gov. Brad Little announced the formation of his 26-member K-12 education task force Wednesday at the Statehouse.

Chaired by State Board of Education President Debbie Critchfield and Boise business leader Bill Gilbert, the task force comprises prominent education advocates, educators, legislators, business leaders and parents.

Dubbed “Our Kids, Idaho’s Future,” the task force is expected to convene for its first meeting June 3.

Little hopes the task force will deliver recommendations to him by November, which will allow his office to begin studying the budget implications and developing an implementation strategy ahead of the 2020 legislative session.

The governor and his advisers said the task force’s purpose is to prioritize a set of goals and then direct policy and budgetary resources toward those areas.

“The overarching goal is to agree on a five-year plan for continuous improvement and outcomes,” Little said.

The list of legislators on the task force includes:

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  • House Education Chairman Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls.
  • Senate Education Committee Chairman Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls.
  • Assistant House Majority Leader Jason Monks, R-Nampa.
  • House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding, D-Boise.
  • Reps. Wendy Horman, Jason Monks and Gary Marshall, R-Idaho Falls.
  • Senate Majority Leader Chuck Winder and Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking, D-Boise.
Rep. Wendy Horman

“I’m honored to be asked to serve,” Horman said. “I look forward to a robust discussion about how we can improve the education outcomes for Idaho students.”

Generally speaking, the new task force will follow a similar blueprint as former Gov. Butch Otter’s Task Force for Improving Education, which delivered 20 recommendations in 2013 and helped drive the education agenda for the past five years.

Idaho Education Association President Kari Overall, a member of the new task force, praised Little for including teachers in the panel.

“We’re excited to have educators’ voices as part of the task force,” Overall said. “We believe that’s vital to make sure that the educators that are in the classroom every day can share their experience to ensure that public education meets those needs.”

This new task force will look at K-12 issues more than higher education initiatives, although there will be some overlap.

“The recommendations, although specified for K-12, really feed into this larger discussion that the State Board is trying to have, which is utilizing the system, what are the most efficient ways to do that, using the resource that we’ve got and ultimately recognizing that everything is about the student and how we best serve students,” Critchfield said.

Little will not ask the task force to develop additional recommendations to rewrite Idaho’s public school funding formula or tweak the proposed funding formula models developed by a previous interim committee and consultants from Education Commission on the States.

However, budget stability and school finance — in a broad sense — will be one of the task force’s focal points.

In addition to the overall mission, smaller task force groups will break off to focus on areas such as K-12 budget stability and line items, facilities and school safety, the teacher pipeline and rural and underserved school districts.

Although a specific schedule has yet to be finalized, Little and his advisers envision the task force meeting throughout the summer and fall and touring different regions of the state to meet with Idahoans and collect feedback. Little’s office has met with State Board and State Department of Education officials and envisions streaming the meetings online so they are accessible to more Idahoans.

“I look forward to serving on the governor’s new education task force, Our Kids, Idaho’s Future,” Ybarra said in a written statement. “It’s important to build on the progress this state has made in helping Idaho students succeed in school and beyond, and set ambitious goals for the next five years. Gov. Little has assembled a diverse group of individuals who share a strong commitment to education. I’m honored to be part of it.”

Little said it was important for the task force to include representatives from different regions of the state, members of both political parties, the chairs of the Legislature’s two education committees, educators and parents.

“We just tried to get a diverse group of big thinkers on education policy,” Little said. “That was what was important to me.”

During the 2019 legislative session, state lawmakers earmarked $100,000 in the State Board budget to fund the task force. Members of the task force are serving as volunteers, and the $100,000 will pay for travel and expenses.

Our Kids, Idaho’s Future task force roster:

In addition to lawmakers, the task force includes:

  • Co-chair Debbie Critchfield, president, Idaho State Board of Education.
  • Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra.
  • Marc Beitia, 2019 Idaho Teacher of the Year, American Falls High School teacher.
  • Kari Overall, president, Idaho Education Association.
  • Jennifer Parkins, board chair, Genesee School District and president of the Idaho School Boards Association.
  • Jody Hendrickx, St. Maries School Board, ISBA vice president.
  • Erin McCandless, president, Idaho State PTA.
  • Mary Ann Ranells, superintendent, West Ada School District.
  • Luke Schroeder, superintendent, Kimberly School District.
  • Cheryl Charlton, superintendent, Idaho Digital Learning Academy.
  • Pete Koehler, retired chief deputy superintendent, State Department of Education; former Nampa High principal and superintendent.
  • Terry Ryan, CEO, Bluum.
  • Co-chair Bill Gilbert, co-founder and managing director, Caprock; board member, Idaho Business for Education.
  • Kurt Liebich, CEO, RedBuilt.
  • Matt Van Fleet, government affairs director, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories.
  • Katherine Hart, associate general counsel, Melaleuca.
  • Juan Alvarez, deputy director for management and operations, Idaho National Laboratory.
  • Shawn Keough, executive director, Associated Logging Contractors of Idaho; retired state senator and past co-chair of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee.

Follow Idaho Education News throughout the summer for full coverage of the 2019 task force.

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